Avriani-Alter war escalates

The war between Alter TV station and the Avriani daily took a nastier twist yesterday with the pro-PASOK daily calling the broadcaster’s two majority shareholders «counterfeiting crooks.» Athanassios Athanassoulis and Giorgos Valsamidis said they would sue Avriani publisher Giorgos Kouris for defamation. Avriani’s attack yesterday with a front-page story claiming Athanassoulis and Valsamidis’s computer and software manufacturer, Altec, is 16 billion drachmas (46.95 million euros) in the red, followed their announcement on Wednesday that they had tabled a blackmail suit against Kouris. Athens prosecutor Sotiris Bayias took charge of the case yesterday, and is expected to investigate whether the claims by the two majority shareholders in Alter can be linked with an ongoing probe by prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos into allegations that a far right-wing publisher regularly blackmailed top businessmen and leading Church of Greece bishops. Athanassoulis and Valsamidis – who bought their stake in Alter from Kouris – claim to hold checks and bank documents that can support their accusations. Kouris also maintained yesterday to have proof of the duo’s alleged financial misdeeds. In a letter to the Athens Stock Exchange authorities, the publisher claimed that the Altec group is deeply in debt and that Athanassoulis and Valsamidis have issued forged invoices to two non-existent Belgian companies. Kouris also said Altec has been falsifying its balance sheets for years – a claim Athanassoulis and Valsamidis deny. Relations between Alter’s main shareholders and Kouris were already highly strained after the Avriani publisher sued the two and their wives last October, seeking to have the Alter deal annulled.